April 22, 2011

That Hideous Strength...

The pause that refreshes. Supposedly. So I was rereading the Space Trilogy (oh, only about the fifth time) and came across this introduction to the third story. By master C. S. Lewis. I mean, here you've got two fantasy books followed by...well wtf IS this one? The first is a trip to Mars peopled by fantastic characters and imagery, the second is even more fantastic. It's a trip to Venus that time, an ocean world. My BIL has never sold a painting except to me - and I bought it because it was to me the image of Perelandra, a giant ocean wave. So without further adieu, I present the introduction to the third book, That Hideous Strength, which does not follow as an act of pure fantasy...or does it?

I have called this a fairy tale in the hope that no one who dislikes fantasy may be misled by the first two chapters into reading further, and then complain of his disappointment. If you ask why - intending to write about magicians, devils, pantomime animals, and planetary angels - I nevertheless begin with such hum-drum scenes and persons, I reply that I am following the traditional fairy-tale. We do not always notice its method, because the cottages, castles, woodcutters and petty kings with which a faity-tale opens have become for us as remote as the witches and ogres to which it proceeds. But they were not remote at all to the men who made and first enjoyed the stories. They were, indeed, more realistic and commonplace than Bracton College is to me: for many German peasants had actually met cruel stepmothers, whereas I have never, in any university, come across a college like Bracton. This is a "tall story" about devilry, though it has behind it a serious "point" which I have tried to make in my "Abolition of Man". In the story, the outer rim of that devilry had to be shown touching the life of some ordinary and respectable profession. I selected my own profession, not, of course, because I think fellows of colleges more likely to be thus corrupted than anyone else, but because my own is the only profession I know well enough to write about. A very small university is imagined because that has certain conveniences for fiction. Edgestow has no resemblance,save for its smallness, to Durham - a university with which the only connection I have had was entirely pleasant.

I believe that one of the central ideas of this tale came into my head from conversations I had with a scientific colleague, some time before I met a rather similar suggestion in the works of Mr. Olaf Stapledon. If I am mistaken in this, Mr. Stapledon is so rich in invention that he can well afford to lend, and Iadmire his invention (though not his philosophy) so much that I should feel no shame to borrow.

Those who would like to learn further about Numinor and the True West must (alas!) await the publication of much that still exists only in the MSS. of my friend, Professor J. R. R. Tolkien. (editor's note: yes, Narnia was written on a dare between Lewis and Tolkien. Which only makes it better.)

The period of this story is vaguely "after the war." It concludes the trilogy of which "Out of the Silent Planet" was the first part, and "Perelandra" the second, but can be read on its own. C.S. Lewis, Madgalen College, Oxford, Christmas Eve, 1943.

How awesome is THAT? How much do you want to read it now? It's like Thomas Covenant, only better. (Had to quit the second time because the giant-ravers were hella scary. But if you like fiction, Covenant is a necessity. Lord of the Rings done by a cynical modern bastard.) And how much should I hang my head in shame by considering myself a "writer" of any sort? Yeah, I'll go sit in the corner now, blown away by the brilliance of a REAL writer.

Ok side note; I'm watching Paranormal Activity on Netflix and I'm calling bullshit already. 6 minutes in, she's knitting? And she's using these enormously fat needles. Do you have any idea what a loose knit you'd get from needles that fat? Pretty fucking loose, I'm telling you now. Nothing you could actually WEAR. I knitted myself a beautiful denim sweater and I used size FOUR needles...now that's a tad excessively small and I'll never do it again (aw hell no) but for a wearable item you can't go any higher than size 9 or 10! She's using like 15s there! What the hell kind of fat yarn has she got to use such an enormous size? I'm really overthinking this, but then so far as I know, the alternate ending is about ten times better than the one they went with. It's like an hour and a half setup to a screamer video.

Ok, ten minutes in. "Found footage" should not have a soundtrack. That's pretty much the point. How often do you wish YOUR life had a soundtrack, and if you could pick it, what music would you pick? I'm thinking Malmsteen but my life's not that hopeful. Or classical. Or metal. Ok forget Malmsteen. If my life had a soundtrack I guess it would be the Jaws theme. Or maybe Vader's theme. Haven't decided.

11 minutes in. Ok so the kittens have opened their eyes, but they all have this totally sad look still, as it happens. Like a blobfish.

Of course it's real. One of those monsters you only find on a deep dive. (Ocean, the final frontier.) So here I am with five blobfish kittens and they have a very devoted mom. I wonder what she's gonna do when I give them away. Will she react like Annie did and search for them forever, carrying a rolled up sock in her mouth and crying? Or will she rise above it? Guess we'll find out.

Also the guy wants a tip on the horse races. I used to be very good at picking horses at the Meadowlands. Probability is my specialty; my 9th grade teacher didn't believe at first I'd wroten the paper about probability. When he asked me if I understood it, I was happy to say yes. Um, yeah, I WROTE it didn't I? But one time I threw caution to the wind and betted on a 99-1 hunch. Escondido, I'll never forget it. I'd been doing data entry and my boss knew Springsteen. (They totally made plans to meet at The Stone Pony while I was typing. Springsteen was gonna have to wear a wig, even. Hey, them famous peoples is important.) I typed Escondido like a bajillion times, so when I saw the longshot Escondido, I bet on him to win. And HE DID. Went in with 20 (never carry money to the horse races, even if you are talented) and left with a hundred. Pretty freaking sweet. We tripped for a whole week on that money.

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